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Khmer Krom Dragons Wins Gold at Tampa Bay

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Written by: Cathleen Phimorong Kim
Long Beach, California

The 2011 International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF) held their 1st Pan American Club Crew Championship (PACCC) in Tampa, Florida on July 30-31. It was a two day competition where it consisted of 200 meters, 500 meters and 2000 meters at the Seddon Channel in front of the convention center. This was the first time IDBF had made this competition a 10 man dragon boat (small boat) consisting of 12 paddlers (including steer person & drummer). There were different Club dragon boat teams throughout the Pan American regions and international countries that participated in this competition.

This was a new race venue for me and for the Khmer-Krom Dragons (KKD). The KKD team is from Seattle/Tacoma, Washington with members ranging from 16 years old to early 50s. While some of the paddlers were of a different ethnicity, they paddle together in unity to represent Khmer-Krom. I was their guest female paddler from Long Beach, California, who paddles with Los Angeles Racing Dragon (LARD). I am also Khmer-Krom and to be invited to paddle with KKD was an honor to me.

The first race day (Saturday) was the 200 meters race followed by the 2000 meters in the late afternoon. Upon arrival to the race venue I was surprised to see many members of the Khmer-Krom community looking very excited about the KKD races. Prior to the start of the race, we were all given a traditional blessing by Khmer-Krom monks, Venerable Chantha, Venerable Danh Tol and Venerable Kim Moeun. Our Open Premier team (consisted mostly of youth male paddlers & one 16 years old female paddler) was the first group to race that morning. We came second in the semi-finals. In the finals, we finished second after the Excellent Stores Titians (Spain) with a time of 57.12 seconds. The Open Mixed team (consisted of the adult paddlers with a minimum of 4 female paddlers) was second in the semi-finals and advanced to the grand final.


Khmer Krom Dragon, Boat 5 races to the finish line and takes home Gold.

In an exciting race from start to finish, our team came first with a time of 59.49 seconds beating the Red Dragons Miami by less than one second. In the late afternoon the Open Mix participated in the 2000 meters race paddling two laps in a semi square/oval race course (500 meters length & width). This race was based on time to see who places overall first, second and third.

The 500 meters race was held on Sunday. Since it was the first time for KKD to race a 10 man boat it made the race even more challenging. Our Open Premier (men squad) team came fourth in the semi-finals, but we still had time to redeem ourselves in the finals. Our Open Mix team came second in the semi-finals, which demonstrated to our men squad team to watch and learn to be prepared for their final race. How did the mix team teach the men squad? It was a slight change of the line up in the seating arrangement of the boat. Cel (female paddler) and I were moved up to stroke because we were more experienced. Earlier in the 2000 meters race we were placed together in the boat where it made the race less intense, but more calm thus eliminating any problems that may occur during the race. The coach made the decision to keep this same line up for the 500 meters. As a result of the move our Open Mix team placed second and advanced onto the grand finals. Learning through observation our men squad team went into the finals and came in second overall.

When our mix team was preparing for our heat, thunderstorms put a halt to the races for over an hour. During that time, the IDBF did the award ceremony for the 200 meters. When they called the team to receive the first place (mix team) & second place (men team) medals, our paddlers and supporters erupted in cheers. After all of the awards were given, the weather was finally calm enough for the 500 meters race to continue. At this point of the race the open mix competition was not an easy one. It was a challenging heat where KKD was up against 5 other top teams and that meant it was a fight to the finish. The intensity and aggression from all 6 boats made it a neck to neck race where it was hard to tell who came in what place. Unfortunately, the KKD Open Mix team did not medal in the final, but we took that experience to know what it takes for future races. However, the KKD Open Premier took home a silver medal.

Overall, what made both days of racing amazing was how many supporters we had from our Khmer-Krom community. Over 100 supporters from Orlando, St Petersburg, Philadelphia, Arizona, California and many other states flocked to Tampa Bay to see our Khmer Krom Dragons race. An unforgettable sight for me was seeing our Khmer Krom people proudly wave our flags from the starting line and then to hear them cheer louder as we reached the finish line. It is this type of support that gives our team the energy to be “winners.” We took home one Gold and two Silver medals.

Thank you to everyone in KYA & KKF for their moral and financial support as well as the accommodation for the past two days. Also, a special thanks to KKD for inviting me to participate with your team and making me part of your family.